I know a few Steelers fans in town, and seriously, my sympathy to them, but wasn’t that just about the best football game you have ever seen?
The Ravens put quite a bit of strut in the municipal step on Sunday, crushing the Steelers in every aspect of the game. James Harrison, the Steelers’ fearsome, or thuggy, depending on whom you ask, linebacker, was flung around the field by Bryant McKinnie, the massive offensive lineman who was supposed to be washed up when the Vikings released him.
Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ lecherous quarterback, spent half the game on his back, thanks to Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, and the other half slouching back to the bench in disgust after throwing the ball to Ed Reed—who is on the wrong team as far as Big Ben’s concerned.
Troy Polamalu, the Steelers’ cornerback with the luxurious locks, got his hair pulled. Honestly. Polamalu was in the process of trying to pull off Ray Rice’s leg, and got his hair pulled. A fight ensued, a ref hit the dirt. It was classic Ravens-Steelers football, except this time it was the Ravens dominating the action.
And all over town we Baltimorons strutted, cheered, bumped fists and performed little touchdown dances.
We are Ravens maniacs. We wear purple on Fridays. We feel taller, thinner, richer, smarter and altogether superior to Pittsburghers—at least until the rematch in November.
Meanwhile, a few blocks north of M&T Stadium, the faithful file into Camden Yards with all the joyful anticipation of a patient needing a root canal.
Because the Orioles, who were once, long ago, dependably in the hunt in the American League East, are now perpetually locked in its cellar.
This month the Orioles are in the middle of their annual struggle to lose fewer than 100 games. As of Monday, our O’s were 58-87 with 17 games left to play. Chances are they will succeed. They will lose 95 or 96 games.
The yardstick for Orioles’ success these days is a winning percentage above .400.
Here’s hoping the Miller Lite Slouch Hat promotion continues to pack ‘em in at Oriole Park, because the games are about as attractive as a staph infection.
There are a few engaging guys on the field–watching Adam Jones is always a pleasure, at bat or in the field. Nick Markakis is one of the best in right field, and he just flat-out knows how to play the game. JJ Hardy is welcome at shortstop. Mark Reynolds strikes out a whole lot, and he makes a whole lot of errors at third, but you know what? He’s better than what we had.
And that’s a problem. The Orioles’ management–and chiefly, the man who writes the checks, Peter Angelos–are happy with better, not good. Every year the Orioles’ management cruises the baseball equivalent of the dollar store aisles for a cheap free-agent designated hitter or cut-rate relief pitcher, and every year, the poor man is introduced at Orioles Fan Fest as the man who will deliver the Birds to a better-than .500 record.
And every year since 1996 the Orioles have failed. And our shoulders grow rounder, and our steps more tentative. Sooner or later we will stop believing that the team will ever win.
Rumor has it that Andy MacPhail, the Orioles’ general manager, will be shown the door in October. But it’s not Andy’s fault–he’s hamstrung by the ownership’s refusal to spend to get a winner and its refusal to build an effective farm system–which also costs money.
You could argue that the NFL has money to burn, and the NCAA serves as the farm system, and that’s why the Ravens can field a good, and sometimes a great, team year after year. But it doesn’t explain the Raiders, the Browns, the Rams and some others, teams that are consistently subpar because they’re poorly managed.
The Orioles are also poorly managed–but the problem is in the Warehouse, not the dugout.
Thanks, Ravens, for bringing life back to the city’s sports scene.
by Jacqueline Watts